Fox News star Bill O'Reilly sat down with Matt Lauer on Thursday morning to discuss his head-turning comments that Whitney Houston wanted to kill herself and the media "has no bleeping clue" how to cover her death. But before that, Lauer asked O'Reilly if he could see Rick Santorum winning the nomination, and he said "Sure."
When Lauer pressed O'Reilly to proclaim whether Romney or Santorum had a better chance of beating Obama, O'Reilly said if gas prices were six bucks a gallon, "you could get elected, all right?"
LAUER: What's driving the [Santorum] surge? Is it his strength as a candidate or Mitt Romney's weaknesses?
O'REILLY: It's neither. It's ideology. Conservatives are bouncing from one to the next and they don't trust Mitt Romney Enhanced Coverage LinkingMitt Romney -Search using:News, Most Recent 60 DaysBiographies Plus Newsat this point. So it's a purely ideological vote. And the polls right now don't really mean very much. It's the next debate at the end of the month. After that debate, then the polls will start to sharpen up a little bit.
LAUER: Can you see Rick Santorum as the GOP nominee?
O'REILLY: Sure. Why not? I mean, he's a smart guy. He might do it. I still think Romney's going to get it, but I've been wrong before. Not much, but occasionally.
LAUER: In a head-to-head race between the GOP nominee and Barack Obama, who has a better chance, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum?
O'REILLY: Depends on the economy. Lauer, you know this. It depends on the economy. Gas prices are – if they're $6 a gallon, you could get elected, all right? Come on. Obama's got problems on all fronts.
Other media outlets seized on O'Reilly's exchange with Lauer over his thoughts about Houston's self-destructive tendencies. Lauer said many believe addiction is a disease:
O'REILLY: Well, then they don't believe in free will. And I don't believe that anyone is a slave to addiction. I believe it is a disease. It's a mental disease, all right? But you have free will and you can get through the disease, as millions of people have chosen to do. It's a lot of free will. You don't have free will when you get lung cancer. You do have free will when you're a crack addict. But it's very difficult. My point is that there are self-destructive people and that society does not grapple with them. We looked--we, the media, looked the other way on Whitney Houston. Everyone knew she was a drug addict for two decades.
LAUER: Wait, that--and you said this, you wrote this in your column: (Reading) "The media has no bleeping clue how to cover the death of Whitney Houston."
O'REILLY: That's right.
LAUER: "That's because she was slowly dying for years and many in the press simply averted their eyes."
O'REILLY: We looked away.
LAUER: Bill, I have seen dozens of stories over the years...
O'REILLY: But they were sensationalized stories.
LAUER: ...detailing the addiction, the erratic behavior, the denial of addiction on the part of Whitney Houston.
O'REILLY: OK. They were--they were sensationalized to exploit the woman's condition, not try to help her. When was the last time you ever saw--you've seen a public service announcement from a famous person--a singer, an actor in it--to say to the American public, `You know, you don't want to be like Whitney Houston. Don't be like Elvis. Don't be like Janis Joplin'? When was the last time you saw that? They don't exist. You know we in the media do, Lauer? We wink-wink it. We Snoop Dogg it. We Willie Nelson it. `Hey, oh, yeah, they're stoned. That's fine.' And what message does that send? `It's OK.' It's not OK.
LAUER: I think it's apples and oranges that you're comparing. I think on the one hand the media did detail her troubles and did highlight it...
O'REILLY: They exploited it.
LAUER: ...but at the same time I would agree that they also celebrated her talent and her stardom.
O'REILLY: Name me one media commentator outside of myself who said, `Hey, Whitney, you better knock it off or you're going to be in the ground.'
LAUER: But maybe they...
O'REILLY: One--give me one!
LAUER: Bill, listen. Maybe people don't come out and say it like you do because that's the style of your show. But by covering her behavior...
O'REILLY: They exploited it.
LAUER: ...and detailing her actions over the years, in a way that is shining a very bright light on it.
O'REILLY: No! If everybody in the show business community had said to Whitney Houston, `Hey, you're going to kill yourself...'
LAUER: But that's different than journalists saying, Bill--are journalists supposed to be in the business of conducting interventions?
O'REILLY: They're supposed to be in the business of telling the truth, and the truth is if you get into hard drugs you can go any time.
LAUER: And by showing...
O'REILLY: And that message isn't getting out.
LAUER: ...her behavior over the years, didn't we shine the light on that?
O'REILLY: No! Because it wasn't put in any kind of a judgmental capacity at all. It was like a sideshow.
LAUER: You think she was cast in a--in a positive light over these last 15 years?
O'REILLY: It wasn't positive, it was `Oh, look at this. Now she goes to rehab.' And it wasn't `Hey, Whitney, knock it off.' It wasn't. It's never been that, ever, and it should be.
LAUER: Let's move on--let's move on a little because you and I could argue for hours. But...
O'REILLY: Of course, and I'd always be right no matter how long it was.